The IEEE ratified the 802.16-2004 standard, marking a milestone in the development of the standard: Still, there's a long way to go. This article doesn't draw the distinction between 802.16 and WiMax. Now that the IEEE has ratified what had been called 802.16d, the WiMax Forum must still release its final specification for WiMax, which will be essentially a subset of the larger standard. Products built to the WiMax specification that get approved by the WiMax Forum can be assured to be interoperable with other WiMax gear.
The IEEE ratification is an exciting milestone but the reality of a WiMax market in the United States is much farther in the future than some writers and industry followers acknowledge. This article notes that WiMax approved equipment should be available early next year. That's true, but basically all manufacturers will build their first generation products to operate in frequencies used overseas, not in the United States.
It also remains to be seen how the final specifications--802.16 and WiMax--will affect folks like Alvarion. Alvarion is offering products today that it promises to upgrade to meet the final WiMax specification. Glenn described the whole process a couple weeks ago. Alvarion isn't taking much of a risk because their customers will pay for any upgrades needed if the customers actually decide to install WiMax standard software or hardware when Alvarion makes it available.
Some analysts have told me that some vendors are feeling a bit of a squeeze as potential customers are deciding to wait for certified WiMax equipment. In the meantime, the vendors aren't selling any gear. So Alvarion made a reasonable guess at what the final specification would look like. They're hoping that they are close enough that they don't have to offer major, expensive upgrades to customers in the future to make the products WiMax compatible.